Mary Kee (Rachel Lefevre) is starting a new life. Well, trying to. She’s recently separated from her husband Steven (Ed Quinn) and has moved into a small, dimly lit apartment across town hoping to start an abuse-free existence. But then the phone rings… and she answers it.
The woman on the other end of the line sounds like a desperate and angry Betty White, and she’s quite possibly calling from well outside Mary’s area code. Or any area code. Soon Mary and those around her, including a shifty neighbor (Luiz Guzman) and a too-helpful teacher (Stephen Moyer), are in danger as the woman on the phone begins to wreak vengeance from far away.
How do you stop a mad woman intent on terrorizing you from across space and time? I mean aside from changing your goddamn number…
A handful of deaths and acts of violence, but they’re almost all off screen.
A severed finger, some decomposed bodies, a woman hanging from the ceiling, and some tame spousal abuse. They save the best for last though as there’s a solidly done assault towards the end.
Lefevre shows off her mild cleavage, bare shoulders, and long legs, but when she eventually gives it up to vampire Bill we get some blurry nudity that makes us think we’re seeing more than we actually are.
Don’t taunt the crazy lady.
The Caller features a fairly fascinating premise at its core that would feel right at home in an episode of The Twilight Zone. We discover early on that the caller is a woman named Rose who lived in the same apartment thirty years prior, and that she’s actually calling from 1979. As her audible anger grows she becomes a serious and seemingly unstoppable threat to Mary. She can do things back in her own time that immediately take effect in Mary’s present day. Someone close to Mary can disappear, and while she knows the truth behind it all she’s unable to stop events from decades past.
Lefevre is the heart of the film, and she does a solid job (especially for a ginger). Her biggest role to date was as the vicious vampire Victoria in the first two Twilight movies (before being unceremoniously dumped in favor of Bryce Dallas Howard for the further sequels), but she proves herself quite capable of taking on a leading role here as she runs the gamut of emotions and actions.
The remaining cast is fine, but it’s here where the script by Sergio Casci starts to cause problems. His central story, the relationship between Mary and Rose, should have been enough to carry the film’s narrative. But Casci either wasn’t confident enough in it or felt that he needed to stuff his story with red herring overkill. The three men in Mary’s life are brought to life by competent actors (well, two of them at least), but they’re also all used to create artificial menace at times.
Casci makes further mistakes with the film’s logic and at times turns Mary into an incredible dumbass. She never once tries to get her phone number changed. She never unplugs the phone (which was already in the apartment when she moved in) and simply uses her cell phone. At one point her and the teacher lose a baseball cap at the fair, and later that night there’s a knock at her door which she opens to reveal the lost cap sitting on the ground several feet in front of her. No one there, no explanation… so she tosses the hat on the table and starts feeding the dog like something creepy as hell didn’t just happen. And then there’s the ending. It’s both telegraphed well in advance and stupidly illogical given the events of the movie.
Director Matthew Parkhill doesn’t help matters by keeping ninety percent of the movie so ridiculously and artificially dark as to be annoying. We can see sunlight through the shades and behind curtains, but Mary and friends intentionally keep the apartment almost pitch black. Lamps are visibly turned against the wall for christ’s sake.
The Caller might have made a stellar anthology short or even a solid film had the script been tightened and toned a bit more. As it stands the movie is an unfortunate missed opportunity that may still be worth it for genre fans thanks to a good lead performance, a cool story conceit, and the few minutes towards the end when the film’s atmosphere gives way to a well shot and somewhat terrifying action scene. It’s everything else that marks this as a call you probably don’t want to answer. But you can let it go to voice mail… and then play it back later (on DVD).
The Caller opens in limited theatrical release this Friday.